Right above knee prosthesis, constructed from crashed aircraft in a Japanese Prisoner of War Camp in Singapore during World War II. It was made by Royal Engineer prisoners, under the direction of Col. Julian Taylor FRCS and a Sergeant Armourer. Made c.1943. (Weight: 7.5 lbs 3.4 kg).
Why would you need a prosthetic leg made from aircraft parts? Was it a wartime shortage of materials, or an urgent medical need? In this case it was a bit of both - the owner of this leg was held as a prisoner of war (POW) by the Japanese and the leg was built within the camp in Singapore.
Why the urgent need? Conditions in Second World War POW camps varied. Human rights were protected by the Hague and Geneva Conventions, but some countries refused to sign, and others simply didn’t follow the terms of the agreements. Many POWs were held in forced labour camps, and survival depended on the ability to work.
So a group of men made this limb for their injured comrade from the only materials they could get their hands on – parts of crashed aircraft. Why is it a strange shade of pink? It was probably the closest they could get to the skin colour of the soldier. Imagine learning to use it, walking and working, particularly under those conditions.
Once back in the UK, British amputees were usually evacuated from field hospitals soon after their surgery, and treated by the Ministry of Pensions’ Limb Fitting Service. Queen Mary’s Hospital at Roehampton was the leading specialist centre, but by 1944 new or enlarged units were opening across the UK. A prosthetic limb made from aircraft parts was not top-of-the-range, but it probably saved this POW’s life.